Helping companies train the next generation of workers is the goal of a new initiative announced last month by Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania DCED

A new state apprenticeship program, which is ideal for manufacturers in the Lehigh Valley, is helping to close the skills gap by providing grant funds for the training of students and adults thru the type of hands-on training that only apprenticeships can provide.

Employers with an apprenticeship program registered through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Apprenticeship and Training Office can apply for grant funds to be put toward salaries of in-house instructors, books and training materials, and other related services.

“Many small businesses have immediate staffing needs, especially as the baby boomer generation leaves the workforce and skill requirements for jobs become increasingly complex and technical, explained Karianne Gelinas, Director of Talent Supply at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. “However, these businesses often lack the funds or ability to provide training for prospective employees to fill the skills gap. Apprenticeship programs can provide those training opportunities to companies that would not otherwise have access to them without that grant support.”

Manufacturers Resource Center President Jack Pfunder said, “We always support more talent entering the manufacturing sector in the Lehigh Valley. The talent supply remains the single biggest issue in manufacturing today. Apprenticeship programs help to fill the voids that exist within the talent pool. With the Baby Boomers retiring at a rapid rate over the next several years, we need to get the next generation trained, and apprenticeships help to do that. They allow the new employee to work hand-in-hand with the experiences employee. And apprenticeship programs also help to keep knowledge within the company and get more people involved with manufacturing.”

The new program was created using grant funds that were awarded to businesses in the Commonwealth who did not fulfill the terms of their grants in some capacity, so partial funds were returned to the state. Apprenticeship grant funds are disbursed on a rolling basis as eligible proposals are accepted.